29. December 2014 · Comments Off on Beasting the Big 100 · Categories: embrace the bike, Weekly Roundup · Tags: ,

We all have one.  A scary number.  Something that looms large.  For some it might be the 10K, the half marathon.  For others, the marathon, the Ironman, the ultra.  Whatever it is, the size of the number isn’t the issue – it’s the fear factor that matters, the associations with that number.  For me, it’s the 100 MILE CYCLE.  The Century ride.

Fear of the number isn’t bad.  It creates motivation and drive to train, and the sense of achievement that comes with completing the challenge.  But I will admit that I’ve had a bit of a strange relationship with the big

Why?  I mean, I’ve done an Ironman, and I’ve cycled the 100+ miles quite a few times now.  So why does it still make me anxious?

Because it’s a bloody long way!!!

And I’ve failed a few times.  And here’s the thing.  I’m not good at failing at things.  Nobody likes to fail, and if you work hard, push hard, try hard, it’s hard to accept that sometimes things just don’t work.  But there you go.  Sometimes they don’t.

First Attempt – Fail!

With friends Dalia & Jojo, at the start of the ride

With friends Dalia & Jojo, at the start of the ride – our first 100 mile ride

May 19, 2013.  This was the Wight Riviera Sportive, around the Isle of Wight.  Now, I should say – the Isle of Wight is really really beautiful.  It’s a stunning place to cycle, and it has non-stop hills.  Welcome to cycling in the UK – May 19, and it was barely above freezing, and raining off and on.

This is not me. You can tell because I was NOT smiling that day.  But you can see the route was stunning.

A view of the Needles

 

 

Stunning.  Except it was cold and raining.  Cold, raining, and 101 miles /163 km and 2219m of climbing.  Gulp.

I suffered.  I wasn’t ready for it.  Jojo quickly disappeared off with a speedier pack, while Dalia kindly stayed with me throughout my suffering.  Dalia had some mechanical issues, so we had to wait for a mechanic to fix those while the clock ticked on, and then when we did pedal onwards, it was pretty much at snail pace.  Yes, so slow that when, chilled through, nearly delirious, we finally arrived back at the finish some 7 hours later, my GPS showed that we had only done 145km, not 163km.  What happened?  I was just so thankful to be back that I didn’t dwell on it, but on the ferry journey back to the mainland, a kind official explained that the broom wagon crew had altered the route at the end to bring us back a bit quicker.  Thank goodness but….  my first failed attempt at 100 miles.  Wah!

 

Second Attempt – Success!

Sunshine makes me happy!

Sunshine makes me happy!

What a difference sunshine makes.  Second attempt was while on a (highly recommended) cycling training camp with Andy Cook out of Club La Santa (sport heaven), Lanzarote, in January 2014. We cycled in a group, it was warm and sunny, we had a couple of stops where we drank coke and ate cheese sandwiches and it was, point blank, a fantastic experience.  We took it slow and steady and I survived the 2700m elevation.  It was awesome.  (Strava link here.)

 

Third attempt – fail!

Don't be fooled by the smile.  I was frozen.

Don’t be fooled by the smile. I was frozen.

Sadly the third attempt was back in the rain.  Except no, it wasn’t so much rain, as snow, sleet, and hail. C’mon, seriously?!  There isn’t much wore than sleet while cycling.  It was the Lionheart Sportive in Wiltshire.  Again, long and hilly (there is a theme here…).  I was so frozen that when I got to the halfway point, I turned my bike and followed the signs to the 100 km route, saying goodbye to my dreams of getting another 100 miler under my belt. (NB – friend Dalia, mentioned above, soldiered on and did the 100 miles.  Beast!)  I drove home shivering and then ran a frozen miserable 17 km, cursing Ironman training.

 

Fourth attempt – Epic fail

Before

Before

After

After

Just to make sure my confidence was well and truly shot, my fourth attempt at the 100 miles was the one where I had the mega-crash and totalled my bike after 105 km.  Read this to hear more about that.  I won’t dwell on it here.  Moving on!

Fifth Attempt Success!

Rain rain rain, always rain!

It always rains!

Ironman Lanzarote was just 5 weeks away when I had the crash, so I really needed to get another 100 miler in, if only for the sake of my confidence.  One week after the crash, I did the Wiggle Ups and Downs Sportive, a hilly 103 mile route in Surrey, with my friend Zoe.  Guess what.  It rained.  It rained like Noah’s Flood.  (Would we expect anything less of April in England?) It was torrential rain, and it was cold, a wet spraying filthy muddy clinging cold that bit into our hands and feet and sodden clothes for the full 103 miles.  That’s right, the full shebang. Zoe and I made it around.  It was misery but we did it!  I couldn’t have done it without Zoe slowly chugging along beside me, a faint silhouette of relentless support in the pouring rain!

Do not be fooled by this brief moment of sun!

With Zoe, photo taken in the brief 5 minutes of sun we had the whole ride!

Sixth Attempt – Success!

This one had to happen!  Ironman Lanzarote!

Ironman Lanzarote

Ironman Lanzarote

112 miles, no problem at all! (Other than bad stomach, but that’s a story for another day.)  Have I mentioned I cycle a whole lot better in the sunshine?

Course profile of Ironman Lanzarote

 

Seventh AttemptSuccess!

Sunshine = smiles!

Sunshine = smiles!

June 2014.  My friend Rebecca and I rode 178km with 2646m climbing around Kent on a beautiful sunny day.  It didn’t rain.  Bliss!  A great ride.  Sunshine makes all the difference!

 

Eighth AttemptSuccess!

I call this one a success, but it was a bitter success if there ever was one.  This was the White Rose Classic put on by the Ilkley Cycling Club in Yorkshire, and we rode part of the route the Tour de France would be doing the following week.  I had been warned – this one is known as hard, and it truly was.  From our start at the nearby hotel to the finish, we rode 191 km /119 miles and 3658 m of climbing.  Brutal ride.  It hurt. It hurt for some 11 hours.  I rode again with my friend Rebecca who kept saying to me, You’re an Ironman, you can do this.  With 25% grade climbs it nearly killed me, but I crawled around it at snail’s pace and made it to the end.  Magnificent.  (Yes, it was truly beautiful too.)  And yes, it did rain a bit too.  Obviously.

 

Ninth Attempt – Success!

Christmas Eve 2014, yes, just a few days ago.  Maybe now I can stop labelling them success vs failures in my head, given that I’ve had a run of successful rides.  But as I said, it’s hard to get a scary number out of your head once it’s lodged itself in there.

This was a successful ride in a new way, however.  Since moving to Florida, I’ve been learning how to push harder on the bike than ever before.  All the other 100+ mile rides were very hilly, and often snowing/sleeting/raining.  Here, I can focus on just the bike, riding hard on big open roads. And I thrive on the bike in the sunshine.

This was the Santa Pull 100, a fantastic group ride organised by pro team Rich and Carol Wygand of RW Training.

At 25 miles in

At 25 miles in

We rode to the ocean! I still can’t get over how amazing it is to ride along the ocean.  In total Tom and I rode 186 km / 116 miles in 6h17, with an average speed of 30 km/h.  (See the ride here.)  BOOM!  Thanks RW Training for giving me back my 100 mile confidence!

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The sun rises over the beach – we started cycling at 5:30am

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Drinks refill stop, around 75 miles in

 

 

Filthy happy faces after 186 km.

Filthy happy faces after 186 km

Nine 100+ mile rides attempted to date.  Six successes, three failures.  100 miles is still a long way, but I’m getting a bit less scared of it now.  And those failures would only be true failures if I had never made the attempt again.

Lessons learned:

  1. I hate cycling in the cold.
  2. I ride better with friends

Morals?  Move to somewhere warm.  Cycle with a great group.  DONE!

 

What’s your dreaded number? 

What scares you?

 

Weekly Roundup

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Total Time: 16:11

Swim:  4.7 km, 1:40

Bike:  284 km, 9:30

Run:  39 km, 3:48

 

 

The holidays have snuck up on us.

What my surroundings do NOT look like.

What with moving to another country, another climate, leaving my old job, getting a puppy, selling a flat, buying a house, starting a business, and training, it has been a busy few months and the time has gone by in a flash of heat haze.

Both Tom and I got hit by a bad cold that we picked up in cool California last weekend, which impacted our training and general joie-de-vivre.  I skipped the group intervals session and long rides and did my own thing instead, which included one of the best brick sessions I’ve ever had, never mind feeling poorly.  But today the cold has slapped me in the face with a big R for rest day, and sometimes it’s best not to argue.

Last week:

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Total:  11h43

Swim: 51 min

Bike: 6h18, 186 km

Run: 2h19, 20 km

This included the Eggnog prediction mile on Wednesday night at the track, where we had to drink a cup of eggnog per 400m and predict what time we’d finish in.  I don’t work well with miles so I took a stab in the dark, going for 10:30, only to finish in 9:19 – but the winner predicted 10:00 and was bang on the dot!  Impressive! (Also, it was the hardest track session I’ve ever done.  20 x 200m?! with 20-30 seconds recovery.  It killed me.)

It also included the “Dog Jogs” which, to be honest, barely count as runs at all.  We’re trying to teach our puppy to run with us… slowly slowly!

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Jumping for joy after my brick session yesterday. (Note the very holiday-spirit atmosphere.)

I miss winter for the holiday season – nothing like a frosty run, the crack of ice under your feet, the stillness of a cold night and your breath fogging and steam rising off you when you stop running.  But all in all, I’m loving how often I’m getting out on my bike and how much more fun it is when you’re not a coasting icicle on a bicycle (sorry, couldn’t resist).

In other excitement, we have gone from having 8 bikes in a small flat in London, to 4 bikes in a big suburban garage.  It’s pretty awesome.

LONDON:

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FLORIDA:

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Those of you in London, or other major cities, will certainly appreciate this.

What are your holiday seasons looking like?

Do you like eggnog? NO!!!!

20. December 2014 · Comments Off on True tales of hating running in a Caribbean paradise · Categories: Holidays, Run, Sportlight on....

Many years ago, Tom and I spent a year living and working in the British Virgin Islands.  We met a lot of good people out there and I accumulated a lot of freckles.

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Me at Spring Bay Beach, Virgin Gorda, BVI, in 2005

We lived in a very remote location, Biras Creek Resort – boat or helicopter access only.  This was before my triathlon days but I still swam and I tried, begrudgingly, to run.  I was a truly terrible runner.  But my good friend Juliane made me run with her whenever she could drag me out the door.

I couldn’t say it was too hot, because it was hot there every day.  But it was bloody hot, and running hurt, a lot.  I would trail behind Juliane panting and puffing.  I have no idea how far we’d run, but we ran maybe half an hour to 50 minutes max, so I doubt we ever ran more than 4-7km.  We did this maybe once or twice a week.  I hated it.

Juliane loved to run.  She would coax, beg, plead, encourage me – anything it took to get me to flick off my flip-flops and lace up my running shoes.  Sometimes we’d run to the beach, other times up the trails, and once we even took the thick cactus trail over to the neighbouring resort, The Bitter End (which pretty much epitomised how I felt on that run).

I ran because I lived an otherwise sedentary life on this small piece of Caribbean sand, and if I’m not going to waste words – for fear of getting fat.  I wanted to love to run, but I wasn’t there yet.  I was very far from feeling that love.  Ok, I dreaded every run.  I envied Juliane’s desire to get out there and run in circles in the heat.

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Juliane with Tom & me after getting hit by a big wave, BVI, 2006

So what does it take to learn to love to run?  Because now I love running, love in a way I always aspired to but could never actually believe would happen.  Juliane (who now, as a mother of 3 boys and still living in the BVI, regularly wins races and triathlons) still says to me, “What happened?

I wish I had an easy answer (that I could package up and sell!), but of course it doesn’t work like that.  What happened was I started running for me, not for worries about weight, I started seeing other friends doing it too, and realised that learning to enjoy running was a process, not a black & white yes/no, and I learned about using my own psychology to my advantage – for me this came in the shape of my very first Garmin GPS watch, the Forerunner 110.  Once I started tracking my mileage, I was hooked.  Have I mentioned I’m a geek for numbers?

I went back to the BVI to visit Juliane 18 months ago and we finally got to run together again, this time as equals, up the craggy hills of Peter Island.  It was bliss.

BVI3

 

Juliane, I thank you for never giving up on me!

When did you fall in love with running?

Tom was taking a course this weekend in California, and I got to go along for the ride (run!).  Nothing makes me happier than trail running.  Running in crisp air, leafy mountains?  yes please!  It was every bit as good as I imagined it would be.

Day 1

No running yet – this was a day in San Francisco with Tom, to be enjoyed.  First stop in the pouring rain was breakfast at Dottie’s, then a wander around Union Square and a coffee with friend Mariko at the Market at the Ferry Terminal.  A walk to Fisherman’s Wharf, and we visited a great running shop, Fleet Feet, for me to buy some new trail shoes.  Cuz guess who forgot her trail shoes at home?!

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7 hours in San Fran.  Then zoooom in the rental car over the bridge to WALNUT CREEK!  Where Tom’s course was taking place.

 

Day 2

The excitement!  While Tom was learning, I got to play.  I hit the trails early, while the hills were still deeply hidden in dense fog.  It was wonderful.  I ran up and around the Diablo Foothills.  I was so, so happy.  I ran 11.5km through the trees, up the hills, through the mud, through the fog, across the top. See map of my run here, or let the pictures speak for themselves:

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The new trail shoes!

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This is me having fun, in case that’s not apparent.

 

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I was in heaven. Not exaggerating.

 

 

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Yeah, I did get a bit lost up there, but it was amazing.

Then I rushed to Oakland to meet my friend Mariko and her girlfriend Heather, and off we went (via huge breakfast) for some hiking up Mount Tamalpais.  Time for more pictures!

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Mariko leads the way

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One of the things I love most about trail running is feeling hot in cold climates.  Does that make sense? I’m one of the coldest people you’ll ever meet (hence moving to Florida!), but there is something about being active and working up a sweat when it’s cold outside that I just love.

 

Day 3

Trails again, this time the Redwoods Trail near Oakland, a 13km run up and around a densely wooded canyon and back down again, with 408m of climbing.  I have a thing about loops – I will always prefer to run a loop than an out-and-back.  My run, and some photos:

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This is running at its best! Through the Redwood trees.

 

I met Mariko and Heather for a coffee in Oakland at their local farmers’ market for a coffee and then headed back to the hotel, only to realise that Tom wouldn’t be done his course for another 4 hours.  Surely I wasn’t going to sit in the room and wait for him, was I, when I was in such a paradise of trails?  So back on went the running kit and my trusty OMM jacket and I headed off to Mount Diablo, the tallest mountain in the area at 3849′.

Mount Diablo, beckoning

Moment of truth:  keeping in mind I’d already done a decent run that day, and darkness would loom in around 3 hours… I didn’t start from the bottom.  Instead I drove up, white knuckled (I hate driving on mountain roads!), parked, and ran up to the summit, just 5km up and down but 307m of climbing in the ~2km up!  See the run here, or admire the view:

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An amazing weekend of trails.

Now trying to avoid thinking about the fact that I’m living somewhere with no mountains or hills…..

What’s your favourite type of run?

Weekly Roundup

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 16.13.21

Total:  10h22

Swim:  2200 yards

Bike:  80km, 2h40

Run:  52km, 5h30

Ps, did you notice I finally got to the swimming pool this week?  That’s because I’ve signed up for another Half Ironman in January….

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Before I ever got into triathlon, I was into books.  I still am, of course.  I have two degrees in English literature and I read as obsessively as I train.  Novels are my favourite, but since getting into running and triathlon, I have been hugely inspired by some tremendous sport memoirs.

These books have helped me push my limits, helped open me to the possibilities of what the body can achieve.  They inspire, they lead by example, and they encourage.

Some of my favourites:

 

Born to Run:  A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

I think by now, most runners have read Born to Run.  It’s so good, I made both my non-running parents read it.  Hidden tribes, superathletes, secrets exposed, myths debunked – it’s a real page-turner.  But seriously, the author starts out not being able to run 5 miles without getting injured, and by the end he can run 50 miles.  It’s such an epic read precisely because it could be about anyone.  You, me, and the superathletes.  We are human, he explains, and we are born to run.  It’s amazing.

Scott Jurek runs with Arnulfo Quimare in Mexico

Reading Born to Run is what made Tom and me want to run ultra marathons.  It suddenly made the idea of going out into the wild and just running all day long extraordinarily appealing – and natural.  And my experience in ultras so far has been as positive as the book made it sound.  Running ultras feels natural and fun.

The book also had a major impact on the running shoe industry, provoking traditional shoe companies to invest in barefoot or minimal trainers.  I haven’t gone the true barefoot route, but I do run in minimalist shoes, even for the ultras.

If you are going to read just one book about running, this is the book.

 

A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey by Chrissie Wellington

A Life Without Limits, for me, was the triathlon equivalent of Born to Run.  It doesn’t hurt that Chrissie is around my age and didn’t really get into triathlon properly until her late 20s/early 30s.  She is just such a smart talented woman who lays herself bare in this autobiography, talking about her eating disorder in her younger days, her need for control and perfection, and the gritty determination that made her World Champion 4 times at Kona.  Above all, she has such an infectious smile (even her Twitter handle is @chrissysmiles), such a positive outlook that you can’t help but think that she would make a great best friend and mentor.

Chrissy is my absolute hero!  And her book is a must read, even if you don’t do triathlon.  I really believe every female athlete should read it.  And the men too.

 

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek

Born to Run introduces Scott Jurek as one of the all-time great ultra runners who comes to Mexico to run with the Tarahumara, so he was a familiar name when his book came out. Eat and Run picks up on that run-all-day philosophy and mixes in Scott’s vegan diet, complete with a number of amazing recipes.  Scott’s vegan chili is now a staple in our house.  If for some crazy reason you want the chili but not the book, you can find the recipe online here.  But that’s just one of many fantastic recipes in the book.

Scott Jurek running Badwater

After reading this book two years ago, Tom – formerly a pretty hard core meat & potatoes sort of guy – suggested we go vegetarian.  Ok, he actually said let’s go vegan, but he didn’t really realise that meant no milk/yogurt etc.  In the end we settled on pescetarian, which isn’t a perfect solution, but the point is, that’s how much of an effect this book had on us.  Faster recovery times, fewer aches, less swelling, all down to diet.

It’s not just a cook book, though (the recipes are truly secondary to his running life story).  It really comes down to the details of how to run, run, and run some more, how to run in the deep snow, how to race Badwater in 130 deg F (54 deg C), how to cope with being one of the world’s greatest long distance runners, and the highs and the lows.  This book made me want to get out there and RUN.

 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

This was the first running book I read.  It’s a bit different from the other books I’m listing here – Murakami is best known as a writer, not as a runner.  I have read every book he has written and I think he is one of the best modern authors out there.  1Q84, one of his recent novels, is an absolute masterpiece, in my opinion.

But this book is fantastic not only because of Murakami’s masterful prose, but the fact that, again, he is just an ordinary runner.  He is you, he is me, he is the guy next door.  He isn’t particularly fast, nor is he particularly slow.  He just runs, and ruminates while he runs.  He generally runs 10km every day, and he never takes more than one day off at a time.  He has tried his hand at Ironman and at ultras, he runs marathons regularly, but truly he runs because running is his thing.

A great read.

 

I’m Here to Win: A World Champion’s Advice on Peak Performance by Chris McCormack

This book took me out of my comfort zone.  I’m the sort of athlete who goes into a race saying to friends, no, I haven’t trained enough, no, I’m not expecting much, I’m just going to see how it goes.  But then when I am racing, I am 100% in the game and will always try my best.  Macca’s book delves into the psychology of winning and specifically winning at Ironman.

 

What stuck with me the most was his method during the race of overtaking someone while running really hard, but trying to make it look as easy as possible – easy breathing, relaxed.  And as he goes by, he says to the person he is overtaking, “You’re doing great!” And then he tears away, making it look like he isn’t suffering, that he can talk and run, that it’s easy.  And more often than not the person he overtakes like that will give up just that little bit, letting Macca get in front, not realising that as soon as he is out of sight, he is gasping for air, choking on the effort it took to go past like that.  But the psyche-out takes root and the overtaken lets himself be beaten.

It doesn’t always work, though.  Macca told everyone going into his first Kona that he was going to win it, and he ended up with a DNF.  I’m not sure I’d be able to handle that sort of humiliation.

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Finding Ultra:  Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself by Rich Roll

 

World’s fittest man?

While I find the title of this book a bit daunting and over the top, it’s actually really good.  Rich is an overweight alcoholic who completely turns his life around via running, Ultraman (3 x Ironman), a dash of yoga, and a whole lot of green juice out of his Vitamix.

In case you were taking Rich too seriously….

Confession:  the first thing I did after moving to Florida (more space!) was buy a Vitamix too.  It’s pretty darned amazing.

And who does an Ultraman when he hasn’t even done a triathlon?! (Well, my friend Karis did an Ironman after just a sprint triathlon, but that’s a story for another day – or have a read of her blog at See Kay Tri.)

This book yet again shows you what we humans are capable of when we put our minds to it.  And also why you should buy a high-powered blender.

 

Ultramarathon Man:  Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes

There is a theme here…. again, Dean was in his 30s, hadn’t run since he was in high school, and was drinking too much… and then on his birthday, he left the bar, and started running in his jeans, and didn’t stop running.  He ran through the night, ran to another city, and then rang his wife to come pick him up.  The ultramarathon man inside him had been awoken.

Dean is a legend in ultramarathon circles.  He has run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, he has run from one major city to another just in time to toe the starting line of that city’s marathon, and he orders pizza while out running in the middle of the night, has it delivered to a street corner and rolls it up and eats it like a burrito… while still running.  Don’t believe me? Watch this.  Yeah, he is pretty cool.

 

This book is an inspiring get-off-the-couch read.  I particularly enjoyed the section where, as a beginner runner, he sees a couple of US Marines training for the Leadville 100 (a mountainous 100 mile race) and asks them what they’re doing.  They scoff at him when he expresses interest in the race.  He nonetheless qualifies for the race a few months later and enters it, only to beat them.

Yeah, I’d like to do that too.  Leadville 100 – one day!

 

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth:  What Going to Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Chris Hadfield

This book choice may seem like the odd one out, because, well, technically speaking, it’s not about sport.  Why have I included it in this list?

Because it’s £$%$^ awesome!!!!!!!

But seriously – look at the the second half of the book’s title is:  “….Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything.”  That could come directly out of triathlon.  Chris talks about choosing a goal and doing whatever it takes, with all the drive, determination, and grit required, to get to where you want to be.

And there is this.  If you haven’t seen it…. Chris made a space video cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.  I LOVE this:

 

Other books?

This is far from a complete list of books to read.  For example, Paula Radcliffe‘s My Story So Far can’t be left out.  The men’s marathon world record keeps getting broken… Paula’s 2:15:25 marathon world record has remained unbroken since 2003.  That’s nearly 12 years now of world domination?! Incredible. I also think it is important to recognise and support strong female athletes just as much as we do the men.

Paula knows how to embrace Rule 5!

The indomitable Killian Jornet recently wrote Run or Die, a dramatic title that speaks of his need, not love, but actual need to run pretty much since he conquered his first mountain while the rest of us were learning to bump our bums up the stairs.  Running comes so easily to Killian, though, that I found this book somewhat harder to relate to than the rest of the books on this list – somehow he isn’t quite as mortal as the rest of us.

 

What are the sporting books that have helped shape you as an athlete?

08. December 2014 · Comments Off on Weekly Roundup · Categories: Weekly Roundup

It’s amazing how quickly the time goes, isn’t it?

Highlights of this week include my parents visiting from Toronto, eating waffles twice in one week, and a really great group bike ride on Saturday where I hammered it with the boys and didn’t get dropped.

Morningride

Week of 1 Dec 2014

Mon:  Rest!

Tues:  17 km run with mixed intervals (6km Z1, 5km Z2, then alternating Z1/Z2 every 2 km for 6km).

Wed:  40 km Z1 bike; Track session:  4*(1600m, 1 min rest, 800m, 2 min rest) in the pouring rain for a total of 11 km.  It was awesome.  I actually do love to run in the rain.

Thurs:  28 k Z1 bike

Fri:  Bike intervals with RW Training, 5*6 mins hard with 2 min rest – see here, for total of 51 km; Run – 1.6 km Z1 with our puppy Haile as a warm up, then 4.5 km Z2.  An exciting run – it was the first evening run I’d done in a while (i.e., cooler) and I had run at half marathon pace in order to get to Z2.  Felt good.

Sat:  Group ride with RW Training, 95km.  First half was Z1, and then we blasted it for the second half, 35-45 km/h.  It was absolutely awesome.

Sun:  Took it easy after Saturday’s hard ride and did an easy Z1 16km run in the morning.  34km Z1 bike in the afternoon.

 

Total Time:  13h10

Swim: 0

Bike: 249 km, 8h31

Run:  50km, 4h38

Puppy cuddles after my Sunday 16km

Puppy cuddles after my Sunday 16km run

 

I raced the Miami Man Half Ironman last month.  It was my first triathlon on this side of the Atlantic, first triathlon in hot sunny Florida.

It rained non-stop.

But I still had a blast.

Things boded well when I got to meet a hero and a legend, Leanda Cave, at the expo the day before (4-time World Champion!).  She was doing a Q&A and I took away some excellent swim sighting tips that I put into practice the next day.

Amazing Leanda Cave!

At the Race Briefing, they also confirmed that yes, there were alligators in the lake we were swimming in.  Incentive to swim faster….

Yup, let’s get this triathlon started!

 

Sunday Nov 9 2014

Swim – 1900 m – 34:42

Leanda had said in the race briefing to try to sight the swim course out of the water before starting the swim.  This made all the difference, because it turned out the swim buoys were not in a straight line at all.  I definitely saved some time by choosing the more direct path as a result of Leanda’s sighting tips.

A wave start meant that there wasn’t a frenzied fight at the beginning, but instead a nice straight swim.

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I’m the one in the centre breathing to my left.

 

“Sight like an alligator”

 

It was two laps around the alligator-infested lake.  I can’t say I saw any alligators, but it was a nice smooth swim.  Not the fastest I’ve done, but not too far off and by far the most comfortable.

Then up out of the water into transition to discover it was pissing it down…. sigh.

Wetsuit strippers stripped me of my wetsuit.

Transition had a long run across the grass with the bike to get to the start of the bike course.  Tom ran alongside the transition fence shouting at me to remember that my carbon wheels would mean very poor brakes in the rain.  Noted!

 

Bike – 90 km – 2:52:10

The bike course had a deceptive number of sharp 90 degree turns which were tricky in the driving rain.  And the rain!  It came down in a flood, in a tropical downpour, the rain blinding me, fogging my glasses, covering the roads so I felt like I was a speedboat leaving a wake through the flooded roads.  I did notice that every time the rain got worse, I overtook more people, though.  I’m no expert in rain riding, but I’ve certainly been forced to do it a lot in the UK and perhaps that helped a bit!

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22 90 degree turns in this course!

On the plus side, the course was pancake flat.  What a nice change from my last triathlon, Ironman Lanzarote (2551m of elevation…).

The bike has been my weakness for a long time, and my crash this year didn’t help with that.  I will post about bike confidence another day, but since moving to Florida I’ve been learning to push myself more on the bike.  I was really hoping to finish the 90km in around 3 hours, so I was thrilled with 2:52, especially as that included the long jog in bike cleats.  Despite the rain, I had my best bike split ever.  It was also my first tri on my new Trek Speed Concept!

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Run – 21.1 km – 1:48:53

I knew I had done my fastest bike split to date, but how would that affect my run?  Having a good bike split had been my main goal, so I was ready to sacrifice the run a bit if need be.  As long as I finished within 2 hours…  or perhaps within 1:49 (my Ironman 70.3 Norway run time)…

The sun made a brief appearance for the run, enough for me to curse the heat (c’mon!  raining on the bike, hot on the run? That’s just wrong!),  but thankfully that didn’t last and the extreme rain returned to do more damage to the already soggy course.  From the start I made the decision to run straight through the ankle-deep puddles rather than try to trot around the outside, and that was a good choice given that one way or another, every single athlete was going to get soaked.  (I did see one man running in a big flapping poncho.  Wish I had a picture of that.)

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The run course was 2 laps around the Miami Zoo.  But it was raining so hard that all the animals were in hiding (smart!).  I won’t lie, it wasn’t a pretty run – either the course, or how I felt – but I got around in a reasonable enough time for me.  I overtook around 150 people, while only 1 man overtook me.  Clearly my running is still better than my cycling.

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Total:  5:21:50

I came 3rd in my age group, which was my first podium finish in a triathlon and was pretty exciting!  (I know it was because Leanda Cave wished me good luck). And I even got a trophy… as strange as it is….

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My first triathlon trophy… a zebra?!

 

And following Miami Man, Tom and I were inspired to sign up for Leanda Cave’s Triathlon Camp in Florida in February.  Can’t wait!

 

05. December 2014 · Comments Off on Friday intervals & the deep darkness of early cycling · Categories: embrace the bike, Rule 5, Triathlon

It’s Friday!

Fridays start with forcing our poor little whippet puppy out of his warm bed for a pee outside at 4:55am:

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Haile: “Do you have ANY idea what time it is?!”

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It is VERY dark outside…

 

I am pretty sure that this is the only time in the entire day that he really hates us.

Then we hop onto our Treks and head off at about 5:20 am to meet with the fantastic RW Training group.  It is dark.  So dark.  So so so dark.  Did I mention how dark it is?  We’ve just moved here from London.  London has so much light pollution that you could probably read your book outside and complete a paint-by-number and thread a few needles while you’re at it, all sitting outside at 3am.  But not here.  No.  We have moved to a semi-rural area and there are no streetlights, very little light pollution, and the darkness swallows you whole on your bike.

 

It's DARK

 

Tom isn’t bothered by it, but I have pretty crappy night vision and I struggle to feel comfortable drafting in a complete void.  So I can’t say I always enjoy the 11 km cycle to the beginning of the ride, but… rule 5!

We meet at 6am at the mall for our intervals session.  Carol, half of the RW Training couple, took a photo this morning before we headed off:

 

Ready to ride!

 

5*6 min intervals with 2 minutes rest in-between, for a total cycle of 51km and home by 7:30am.  Not bad!

How do you fit your training into your day?

Ebola.

The deadliest virus you can think of.  The stuff of cinematic nightmares, something so far away and scary that it’s like talking about aliens and the apocalypse.

And now that Ebola is here, stronger than ever, spreading, its wormy tentacles fingerering their way into affluent countries while killing dozens of thousands in West Africa and beyond, it’s become even more of a joke word:

I don’t feel well, I think I have Ebola.”  ”

Stay away from me, I don’t want to catch your Ebola.”

But it’s not funny.

 

Sorry to be so sombre.  In May this year, I was incredibly lucky to be asked by employer Norton Rose Fulbright LLP to run the SIERRA LEONE MARATHON in Makeni, Sierra Leone, in aid of Street Child. In brief, the marathon was backed by the insurance industry and I worked as an insurance lawyer.  What an opportunity!

 

In the lead up to the Sierra Marathon, we kept seeing news of Ebola outbreaks in neighbouring Guinea and Liberia.  Sierra Leone remained safe.  And then of course the inevitable… a few people cropping up with Ebola in Sierra Leone too. Would the Sierra Leone Marathon be cancelled, we wondered?  Would we catch Ebola if we went, we joked? But it was still early days and there seemed little cause for alarm.  My colleagues and co-runners Amy and Natasha and I raised as much money as we could for Street Child, holding chocolate sales and harassing friends and colleagues as much as is politely permitted (or more), and off we went.

 

Street Child works with the children of Sierra Leone, primarily to get them into education for a better future for the whole country, but now its focus has had to shift to helping with the Ebola outbreak.

 

I had competed in Ironman Lanzarote the week before, had a short night in an airport hotel in London and then was back on a plane flying 7 hours to Freetown, Sierra Leone.  Upon arrival in Freetown, we immediately boarded a Street Child minibus heading for Makeni, 3 hours away.

 

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 We had two days before the marathon for Street Child to show us what it did in Sierra Leone.  We drove for hours across the country to Masimera Chiefdom where we visited one of five extremely rural villages where Street Child was helping with the children’s education.  The distance was only around 150 km, but the state of the roads meant for slow-going, and crossing a river was an amazing experience:

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The roads

 

 

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Crossing the river by raft

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When we finally reached the villages, covered head to toe in dust and mud, we were met by the entire village, singing and clapping – an incredible and somewhat uncomfortable experience.

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They showed us their school and we met their teacher.  Sadly, Street Child has since told us that in these small villages in Masimera Chiefdom, there are now 67 orphans following the devastation of Ebola.  You can read Street Child’s update here if you want to know more.  “Sadly, the worst is still yet to come,” they write.

Back in Makeni, Street Child showed us how it helps families be able to afford to keep their children in school by providing small business loans.  My friend James Tarran wrote in his blog about one such business:

It so[on] became clear that this was nothing like small business as we know it in the UK. The first business we went to was on the dusty highway just outside the school; we were told that a lady had established a restaurant.

The ‘restaurant’ was basically one home-made wooden bench at the road’s edge, a crude open frame with a shade and two cooking pots over open fires – one for rice and one with a sort of fish sauce/stew in it. From there she served local farm and construction workers their lunch for a few hundred Leones … Street Child gave her a loan of maybe £20 so she could buy her two cooking pots and her first supply of rice.  They then monitor her closely for 14 weeks to ensure that she understands that she has to sell the food at the right price to ensure that she can buy a further supply of rice, pay back her loan and so sustain her business.

Loans are only given to ‘care-givers’ of children in a Project school.  In reality that means the money goes almost always goes to women.  Once the beneficiary has proved that they can sustain a business after the 14 week trial period they can apply for another micro-loan if they need it.

The largest business loan that Street Child gives is £50.  The sort of money that all of the watching westerners would spend on a night out without turning a hair. In Sierra Leone that amount of money can truly transform the fortunes of a whole family.

(I’d highly recommend reading his whole blog post, here).

 

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A woman selling bras at the Makeni market

 

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A fallen mango serving as breakfast, lunch and dinner

 

 

And then it was the day of the Sierra Leone Marathon.

A 4am wake-up for a 6 am start out of the Wusum Stadium in Makeni:

 

 

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It was VERY dark!

 

The early start was obviously to try to avoid as much of the heat as possible, because have I mentioned that Makeni is absolutely drenchingly sweatingly unrelentlessly hot and humid?  The type of heat that makes you unable to move, to swallow, to think.  A heavy humid cloying heat that smacks you hard and pushes you down.

 

Back to race mode.  As I mentioned previously, this was exactly one week after I had finished Ironman Lanzarote, so I didn’t think I was going to be at the top of my game, but on the other hand, it meant that I was pretty fit.  So I got my race face on and readied for the start.

 

SierraLeone Marathon start

 

 

The runners were a truly mixed lot.  Most were from Sierra Leone, and there was some good prize money going to the winners, so this race was no fun run to them, but a serious race.  There were local runners from Makeni and also the Freetown Fashpack Runners, a serious running club from the capital, Freetown.

 

The race started on roads and then eventually made its way into thicker jungle, only to come out through rural villages before disappearing into the jungle again.  Street Child had done a fantastic job of getting marshalls in place and appropriate water stations, and everywhere I ran I heard enthusiastic children shouting “oporto” (spelling dubious?) which means “white person”.  There were long stretches of jungle where I ran alone for miles, wondering if I had gone off-course, only to eventually come across a marshall.

 

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Phil Langley running in style! See footnote below for a link to his blog post on the race.*

SL Marathon  SLMarathon

 

I kept the pace slow and even but nonetheless I knew when I came around an out-and-back section that I was actually holding on pretty well.  Others seemed to be suffering more from the heat than I was.  I marvelled at the lush mango trees, the thick jungle, the village children running alongside.  About 5km from the end, a group of children who looked to be around 4 years old ran beside me for a while, and I thought, “Surely it isn’t right that they can keep up with me….”

 

A few kilometres from the end, I overtook the third place lady, a Sierria Leonian who was running barefoot.  As I finally entered back into Makeni, scooters came alongside me and shouted that I was now in third place overall, and was the first international woman.  My Garmin beeped to say I’d finished the marathon, but the finish line was still nearly a very painful hot kilometre away.  I told myself, rule 5, and put the hammer down.  I crossed the finish line at 4:00:47, overjoyed to be finished, and annoyed to have just crossed over the 4 hour mark!

 

I later found out that James, of blogging fame above, was the first international male finisher in a time of 3:42, and his last marathon just one month previously in Manchester was 2:56:32.  So that was some truly serious heat and I was very happy with my time given the conditions!

 

If you’re a stats monkey like me, you can check out my Sierra Leone Marathon on Strava.

 

Visiting Sierra Leone and running the Sierra Leone Marathon was a tremendous experience and I am grateful to my generous employers for not just letting me go, but for asking me to go.

 

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After the marathon with our medals

 

With James after the marathon

With James after the marathon

 

We raised £3021 for Street Child, but Street Child still needs more help.  Unfortunately for us living far away, at the moment that help can only be financial.  If you would like to donate, you can do so at my fundraising page here or through Street Child’s Ebola Appeal directly at their DONATE NOW page.  And to all those readers who already donated in the run up to the race, thank you again!

 

*For another great blog post about the Sierra Leone Marathon, read Phil Langley’s blog here.  I was lucky enough to meet Phil in Sierra Leone and was amazed to hear that it was his third time running it.  And he is running it again in 2016 for the 4th consecutive time!

 

Would you travel somewhere far far away for a race?

01. December 2014 · Comments Off on Sportlight on Tom · Categories: Sportlight on....

I’ve mentioned my husband Tom a few times already.

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(He is embarrassed about this post already.)

Tom rescued me when I crashed, he says “rest is best” when I say “more is more”,  and he has crazy bike skills.  Or should I say skillz?

 

Tom and I first met in London in 2003.  Neither of us did triathlon then.  Rock climbing and mountain climbing was more the name of the game:

 

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Climbing in the Peak District, 2004

 

 

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Climbing in Scotland, 2005

 

 

 

But from a small age, Tom was always a cyclist.  And with a rugby background, he ran.  It didn’t take much to venture into triathlon, and after several years of watching him, I finally joined in too.

 

 

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Poole 3km swim race, UK

 

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Royal Parks Ultra Marathon, London

 

 

 

In London, Tom ran a great bike shop, Cycle Surgery.  But in 2015 we are opening a premium triathlon shop in south Florida with customised bike fitting services.  And Tom knows what he is doing on a bike!

 

 

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Wiggle The Long One 2013

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Ironman Lanzarote 2014

 

 

 

Since I joined him in this madness, together we have completed 2 ultra marathons, 1 Ironman, 1 half Ironman, 1 marathon, 3 half marathons, countless bike sportives, and a 3km swim race.  And more separately, but the ones together are always fantastic.  We have both signed up for Ironman Florida and Ironman 70.3 Augusta in 2015, so lots more training together ahead!

 

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“The Long One” Sportive, Arundel, UK July 2003

 

 

Tom swims well, rides like a demon and is a good runner.  And he gets stronger and faster each and every Ironman.

Most of all though, he is my number one fan, my number one coach, and my number one inspiration!

 

 

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Ironman Wales 2012

 

 

Who keeps you going when it gets hard? Tom, of course, but a number of other friends too!